Renowned Italian executive and line producer Mario Cotone is currently developing two major international multi-million dollar projects that will both be backed by RAI and are set to shoot next autumn.

The first is a long-gestating $25m movie about Matteo Ricci, a 16th century Italian Jesuit missionary and scientist who lived in China during the late Ming dynasty.

The legendary priest, who dressed like a Chinese scholar, is credited for bringing Western culture, mathematics, science and the Roman Catholic religion to the closed 16th century Chinese society. He is buried in Peking.

Cotone is producing the picture, which has been in development at RAI for around 20 years, through his Rome-based outfit, Pacific Pictures. Titania's Ida De Benedetta is co-producing.

Cotone is currently in talks with Chinese co-production partners on the picture as well as a trio of international directors.

Also set for production later this year is Caravaggio, a $15m biopic of the troubled but revolutionary Italian Renaissance artist.

Cotone told that he is currently in talks with British, French and German co-production partners on the film, which is being produced by Pacific with Titania and RAI.

Like Marco Tullio Giordana's critical hit The Best of Youth, both Caravaggio and the Matteo Ricci project could be released in Italy theatrically as well as broadcast as a two-part TV series.

Theatrical rights only will be sold in the rest of the world.

Cotone is one of Italy's best-known line producers. His credits include Heaven and Life Is Beautiful, and he has also worked on Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, Little Buddha and The Last Emperor, as well as Once Upon a Time in America.

Cotone was recently the main producer behind David Grieco's Evilenko, a Euros 5.5m film about the Rostov monster, who went on a killing rampage in Russia between 1983 and 1990, allegedly killing 55 children.

Starring Malcolm MacDowell as the monster and Marton Csokas as the detective, the film will be distributed in Italy by Mikado.